Canadian Emergency Student Benefit: What you need to know

Graphic by Riley Stevens

Postsecondary students who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents are getting a $9 billion lift from the federal government. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the Canadian economy to take a hit and postsecondary students have found themselves unemployed and struggling with rent, tuition fees, and repayment of loans. 

The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) will provide $1,250 every month to eligible students and $1,750 to eligible students with dependents or disabilities from May to August 2020. 

The CESB is meant for those students who do not qualify to get assistance from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). However, only Canadian citizens and permanent residents are eligible for the CESB. 

“At this time, we believe that CESB and the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG) do not include international students. CERB still allows international students to apply,” Matthew Gerrits, VP education for WUSA and co-author of the report, said. 

“WUSA recommended that actions cover as many students as possible, and going forward, we’ll be asking government to address the needs of international students as well.”

The Canada Student Service Grant will provide up to $5,000 to students who engage in national service and serve their communities in order to help them move forward with their studies in the fall. Furthermore, the government is working on creating up to 116,000 placements and training opportunities for students to gain experience and polish their skills over the summer. 

For the 2020 – 21 school year Canada Student Grants will be doubled for eligible students to up to $6,000 for those studying full-time and $3,600 for those studying part-time. 

Furthermore, the eligibility criteria for student financial assistance will be expanded by removing the expected student’s and spouse’s contributions. 

Additionally, the maximum weekly amount that is provided to students under the Canada Student Loans Program will be raised from $210 to $350, while $75.2 million will be provided as distinctions-based support to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation postsecondary students.

Total impact in millions of dollars 2020 to 2021, from the Canadian government’s website.

On Apr. 22, Trudeau announced a support fund of approximately $9 billion to provide postsecondary students and recent graduates with financial assistance in this time of crisis. 

In addition to funding, the government has designed a plan that is meant to help students get through the summer, continue their studies in the fall, and find meaningful work to start their career. 

On Apr. 17, the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities (UCRU), a federal advocacy alliance of which WUSA is a part of, published a report making recommendations to the government. The announcement made by Trudeau reflects the recommendations made by the UCRU with some changes.

Out of the fund, $291.6 million will be given to the federal granting councils to extend expiring federal graduate research scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships, and to supplement existing federal research grants. 

“Our government has a long-standing interest and responsibility in supporting and sustaining research capacity at universities across the country. These institutions provide the foundation for innovation in the economy by training highly-skilled knowledge workers and building the intellectual capital needed to respond to key economic and societal challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic,” Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, said. 

“The funding announced today addresses Canadian research trainees’ economic hardships due to pandemic-related closures and pressures, and will help maintain our ability to compete for, train, and retain highly skilled talent.”

The government will also be working on expanding job opportunities for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows through the National Research Council of Canada.

“By providing immediate support, our investment will help ensure that the next generation of researchers and highly qualified personnel are able to weather this challenging period and quickly ramp up their activities during the recovery,” Bains said.

“We clearly articulated student needs to the government and were heard,” Gerrits said. “Some days you get what you ask for, and I’m relieved for students that today is one of those days.”

The Student Emergency Support Fund launched by UW and WUSA is currently accepting applications

“At this point, we know that there might still be expenses that exceed people’s financial means. The program is going to remain in place for the students that need it most,” Gerrits said.

“In addition, the government’s announced support does not apply to international students, whereas the Student Emergency Support Fund from WUSA/UW applies to all students without respect to the program, domestic vs. international status, or undergraduate vs. graduate studies.”

During this challenging time, Campus Wellness is providing physical and mental health support to students. Health Services and Counselling Services will be open from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and an appointments can be booked by calling 519-888-4567 ext. 32655 for Counselling Services and 519-888-4096 for Health Services. Initial appointments will be conducted over the phone. 

“We know this is a time of change and adjustment, and it is for me too as my term as VP Education finishes. What won’t change is that WUSA is going to keep listening to students and trying to find out how to make their lives better,” Gerrits said. 

“I’m looking forward to how the new executives are going to make that happen.”


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